No medals for Romney in London as he follows in father's footsteps with epic gaffe
OPINION:Mitt tried to condescend to the nation that invented condescension. The Brits swiftly boxed his ears for his trouble
SO THE Republican presidential contender, eager to show off more than gubernatorial experience, travels overseas to bolster his foreign policy credentials.
Then, in a TV interview, he blurts out a shockingly ill-considered, if undeniably true, observation that snowballs until the poor guy collapses into an international punch line.
It was a vertiginous fall for George Romney, who, while running for president in 1967, asserted that generals and diplomats had given him “the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get” when he toured Vietnam two years earlier.
And it was painful for Mitt, who had to watch his father’s epic gaffe from afar, while he was over in France struggling to drum up a few Mormon converts.
In their book The Real Romney, Michael Kranish and Scott Helman quoted Mitt’s sister Jane as saying the episode deeply affected Mitt: “He’s not going to put himself out on a limb. He’s more cautious, more scripted.”
That’s when Mitt began to build his own sterile biosphere, shaping his temperament and political career to ensure he never stumbled into such a costly moment of candour.
Even though the Mormon doesn’t drink coffee, he has measured out his life in coffee spoons, limiting access to reporters, giving interviews mostly to Fox News, hiding personal data, resisting putting out concrete policy proposals, refusing to release tax returns, trimming his conscience to match the moment, avoiding spontaneity.
But somehow he ended up making the same unforced error that his dad did.
It’s like the epigraph in John O’Hara’s Appointment at Samarra. You can run from fate, but fate will be waiting in the next town, at the next marketplace.
Even as he angled to appear Anglo-Saxon and obsequiously vowed to restore the bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office, Mitt condescended to the nation that invented condescension. The Brits swiftly boxed his ears for his insolence and foul calumny.
Conservatives in London oozed scorn. Mayor Boris Johnson mocked “a guy called Mitt Romney”, and British prime minister David Cameron suggested it was easier to run an Olympics “in the middle of nowhere”. Fleet Street spanked “Nowhere Man” and “Mitt the Twit”.
Conservatives on Fox News were dumbfounded. “You have to shake your head,” Karl Rove said.
Charles Krauthammer pronounced the faux pas “unbelievable, it’s beyond human understanding, it’s incomprehensible. I’m out of adjectives.”
The alarming thing about Romney is that he has been running for president for years, but he still doesn’t know how to read a room. He doesn’t take anything in, he just puts it out. He doesn’t hear himself the way the rest of us hear him.